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Barry Fox promotes virus abuse on radio

Lawbreaking antics live on air

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Barry Fox, veteran electronics journalist and media pundit, lost his marbles live on London radio last night when he advocated sending viruses to people who annoy you.

Speaking on the Clive Bull show on LBC, regular guest Barry appeared to forget both his years of IT experience and the law relating the misuse of computers when he informed listeners he had deliberately sent the SirCam virus to an address that has sent him an unwanted email.

The email itself was one of the old Nigerian money making scams. This makes matters worse - if Barry infected the host machine with SirCam, the virus would proliferate far faster than on a normal machine since it would contain hundreds of thousands of emails addresses.

As a well-recognised IT pundit, frequently appearing in the nationals and on TV and radio, such a remark would have wide repercussions. Barry prides himself on his friendly-uncle approach to complex IT matters, speaking clearly and simply. Advocating sending viruses though is more senile grandad behaviour.

It has also only been a couple of weeks since the New Scientist had to print an apology following a Barry Fox article, in which he had said that a new copyright protection system for CDs could cause your loudspeakers to blow up. The "correction" denied that any such thing was possible on any level.

This was a simple case of apologising for going over the top; but by publicly announcing he had deliberately sent a virus Barry has left himself open to the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Expert in this field, Neil Barrett from Information Risk Management, said that, yes, if Barry could be proven to have sent a virus on purpose, he had infringed the Act. And as for punishment? "It is all depends on the reason behind it," he told us. "If it was to cause unlawful damage, that is covered by section two of the Act. If it was sent to realise some information on the computer - intrusion with intent - then that is section three."

The SirCam virus comes under section two, Neil told us, and as such Barry could face a fine of a few thousand pounds, a jail sentence of a few months or both.

Has Barry finally lost it? What's next? Cancer threat from CD drives? We await with interest. ®

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